From humble beginnings comes a man who has touched lives from businessmen to fashion-conscious women and from screen to stage. He finds inspiration in the smallest things, and without formal training, creates couture in the same way that a prodigy picks up a paint brush and produces a work of art. That man is fashion designer Kevin James.
The changing seasons on the east coast can be thanked for young Kevin picking up a pencil and drawing. Raised in Connecticut, James and his brother often spent hours inside with pencil and paper. “We would have snow and rain or whatever and we would always sit in the house and draw. Our whole life, that was just a normal thing. My brother and I are both artists in that sense. I was always interested in the fashion magazines and I would draw from that.”
James’s brother, Kenny James, is a singer/entertainer who won Star Search in 1986. Kevin James began his career in fashion designing the clothes his brother wore while performing. When an opportunity arose for Kenny to be on the Redd Foxx Variety Show, Kevin went with him to Hollywood, California, and “we never went back!” James’ mother used to date Redd Foxx who was a family friend. Even more amazing, many years earlier, Foxx helped get the young James brothers lined up as one of the acts at the famous Apollo Theater in New York. They won!
Through his brother, Kevin began designing custom fashion for other celebrities like the Divine Miss M, Bette Midler, the Jackson’s Victory tour (Randy Jackson’s clothes), and High School Musical. One thing led to another and the young man drawing pictures on snowy Connecticut days found himself designing the stage outfits for the singers and dancers on Michael Jackson’s This Is It! tour.
“I wasn’t doing Michael’s clothes. I was one of the designers for the backup singers and the dancers. But I got to go to the rehearsals and I got to meet Michael.” James says that was the biggest blessing in the world for him. “It was something that I prayed for and it happened, and it blew my mind. I always said I got my dream gig, and then two weeks later I was going to his funeral.”
James had just received payment for his work, but was so devastated; he said “I didn’t even care if I got paid. I would’ve paid them to get to do this.”
All of his success has been through word-of-mouth since he doesn’t run his business out of a store. In truth, James runs it all from his home where he also sometimes hosts fashion runway shows to the delight of his neighbors with white-coated waiters serving champagne and hors d’oeuvres on the lawn.
Networking has worked so far. Recently, James designed clothing for the backup dancers on the Katy Perry tour.
Runway shows are vehicle for the introduction of his latest lines, but the inception and creation of those lines is a different process.
He pictures clothe in much the same way a sculptor views a slab of marble. He lets the medium decide what it wants to be, and he helps it achieve its goal with a snip here and a tuck there until the finished product is created. “It’s all about feelings. It’s like birthing kids. It’s just pieces of me that come out, and I have to let them go.”
James draws his inspiration from life. “Sometimes I’ll just sit on a bench and watch people. I see things in everything.”
His latest line, Fantasy, came alive on the runway for Concert 4A Cause, a charity event benefiting the Miller Children’s Hospital for cancer research. He decided not to do ready-to-wear, but something that people would expect to see walking down a red carpet at a premier.
When designing custom clothing, James aims to create couture that will reflect who they are; “That makes you feel the way you want to feel, not the way you think people think you should feel, but makes you find something in yourself where you’re really happy within your own skin.” He says this is why he does “custom” design; “because people are custom. No one is the same, and no one should want to be the same.”
With that in mind, James will be the first to say that he also designs couture for the curvy woman. “Men love curves!” James loves them, too, and insists on having models that represent real women in his shows. “The first time I ever designed, I went into a store call G Fox with my drawings. I don’t know how I went in there like I had the nerve to know what I was doing, and I showed all my sketches, and the woman was like “wow, this is beautiful. Where are the dresses? Show me the dresses.”
New to the world of fashion ‘buying and selling’, James did not have any samples at the ready. The buyer told him that his sketches were only “pretty ideas” without sample designs. He began to walk away when a plus-sized woman stopped him and asked to see his work. “She said ‘baby, if you could make this dress for a woman my size, then you’re a designer!” He did. The woman was a size 24. “She was so happy; I said I would never design just for thin women again. I design for real people.”
Moving forward, Kevin James is working on his website so people everywhere can access his clothing online. “It’s a work in progress”, but the goal is to have the site designed for e-commerce.
In the meantime, James is enjoying life. “This whole cult of life, there’s no good or bad. It’s how we process it. It we process it and we grow from it, it does something.” And if people process it all while wearing Kevin James Fashion, all the better!
You can connect with Kevin James on Facebook at facebook.com/KevinJamesFashion